How does reading improve mental health in the elderly?

To celebrate National Book Lovers Day on August 9th, we’re taking a look at the joy of reading and how it can contribute to good mental health in later life. The benefits of reading books can be seen at all ages, but keeping up the habit can be particularly important for the elderly.

Here are the top five reasons to pick up a book as you age:

Improve cognition

They say ‘use it or lose it’ and that’s definitely the case with memory. Reading stimulates the brain and creates new neurons, helping individuals to recall things that have happened. As cognition is an issue many people suffer with as they age, elderly reading habits can contribute to good brain function.

Reduce stress

When it comes to reading and mental health, it’s vital not to overlook the role books play in unwinding and relaxing. Settling down to read slows the heart rate, releases muscle tension and takes the booklover away from the stresses of their everyday lives. Reduced anxiety makes it easier to deal with the challenges of ageing.

Better sleep

A good night’s sleep is the solid foundation for a successful day ahead and reading can form an integral part of a healthy bedtime ritual. Getting into bed with a book provides a break from using blue light devices that have been found to disturb sleep. It also signals to the body that it's time to wind down and prepares you for a restful night.

Delay Alzheimer’s

Brain-challenging activities like reading are thought to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Reading throughout a lifetime and continuing into old age helps the brain to build up its neuron reserves and therefore prevent the symptoms of neurodegenerative conditions from taking hold so quickly.

Promote overall well-being

Reading can have an overall positive impact on general wellbeing for the elderly, bringing enjoyment and escapism, while also preventing loneliness and being more connected with the world. Sharing books is a great way to bring people together and rereading favourites can bring back memories of happy times, friends, family and even holidays.


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